Reviewed by: Megan Basham
How can we know there’s a God? Answer
What if the cosmos is all that there is? Answer
If God made everything, who made God? Answer
What does God say? Answer
What is the true God’s real plan? And is there hope for mankind? Watch The HOPE (very popular on-line film)
Does God really exist? How can I know? Answer
If God made everything, who made God? Answer
Is Jesus Christ God? Answer
If God knows I am hurting, why doesn’t He help me? Answer
Does God feel our pain? Answer
How can I know the Bible is true? Answer
With so many denominations and religions, how can I decide which are true and which are false? Answer
Starring: Jim Carrey, Jennifer Aniston, Morgan Freeman, Lisa Ann Walter, Nora Dunn, Catherine Bell, Philip Baker Hall | Directed by: Tom Shadyac | Produced by: Tom Shadyac, Jim Carrey, James D. Brubaker, Michael Bostick, Steve Koren, Mark O'Keefe, Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum, Steve Oedekerk | Written by: Steve Koren, Mark O'Keefe, Steve Oedekerk, Michael O'Keefe | Distributor: Universal
Bruce Nolan (Jim Carrey) is having one of those days—actually it’s more like one of those lives. A local reporter in Buffalo, New York, his talent is showcasing the kind of touching, down-to-earth stories that leave his viewers with warm fuzzies, but leave him feeling like a professional loser. Envious of journalistic giants like Walter Kronkite, Bruce epitomizes the very essence of discontent. As he puts it, he’s had it with his mediocre job, his mediocre apartment, and his mediocre life.
Finally, after experiencing a series of humiliating setbacks, Bruce loses his wavering control over his emotions and lets loose on the Lord above, who, much to his surprise, answers. Not only does God (Morgan Freeman) hear Bruce’s complaints, in His divine wisdom, He settles on a creative (and often hilarious) way to teach Bruce about what’s valuable in life—He’ll let him try his hand at running the world for a few weeks.
What does our true God say is important in life? Answer
Of course, once Bruce takes over the universe’s greatest responsibility, his limited, selfish human agenda nearly ruins his life and the lives of those who love him, such as his girlfriend Grace. Delightfully played by Jennifer Aniston, Grace is Bruce’s spiritual opposite. She constantly worries over Bruce’s well-being and prays for his happiness on a daily basis.
Lest some of you feel a bit uncomfortable with the idea of watching a man literally shout at God, it might be worth pointing out that such temper tantrums are hardly unusual in the Bible. Even the mighty prophet Elijah had his childish fits when making such pouty statements as, “I have had enough Lord, take my life.” And Jonah, who, when asked by God if he had any right to be angry, audaciously answered, “I do, I am angry enough to die.”
So, foolish and self-indulgent as it may be, rage against God is hardly new, and Bruce’s journey could actually have something very valuable to say to Christians and non-Christians alike about the nature of the Almighty. Despite the precarious undertaking of trying to paint a picture of God using limited human minds and limited human actors, the team behind this film manages to capture some of the Lord’s compelling attributes as revealed through Scripture.
One of the most powerful images of God comes when Bruce tries to patch up the mess he has made of his love life. In a moment of desperation, he asks God, “How do you make someone love you without affecting free will?” To which the Lord replies, “Welcome to my world son.” This and other moments imply that the pain and tragedy so prevalent in our world don’t occur because God doesn’t care, but rather because, in our sin and confusion, we ignore Him and try to find happiness in all the wrong places.
Even when Bruce is at his most self-indulgent and ridiculous, God still treats him with good-humored loving-kindness. The message is that God desires a relationship with mankind, even if we occasionally try His patience.
Bruce also discovers that he is the worst judge of what’s best for his life, and that having all his desires met leads to isolated unhappiness. As the film progresses, we see that God was right to deny Bruce’s selfish requests—an experience that ultimately leads Bruce to fall to his knees in the middle of the highway, crying out, “I want You to decide what’s right for me. I surrender to Your will!”
Families can expect to see typical Jim Carrey-style crude humor, such as watching Bruce use his powers to blow up a woman’s skirt. Also, though Grace is apparently supposed to represent the most “Christian” character, she doesn’t seem to have any moral problem living in sin with Bruce. And, as usual, the movie features a less-than-holy language (including the f-word). I asked director Tom Shadyac, who is a professing Catholic, about these cinematic choices, and though I found his answers thought-provoking, I can’t say I was satisfied with them. Take a look at his interview to see if you agree.
In addition, though the film portrays God’s love, wisdom, and mercy, it does not illustrate his holiness, or, by extension, our need to be redeemed from our sins. And, of course, since it never mentions our need to be redeemed, it likewise never mentions our redeemer, Jesus Christ.
However, unlike most other blockbusters coming out this summer, this film may provide a better than usual opportunity for fruitful witnessing afterward. Like Paul with the Greeks, movies concerning God and his role in our lives give Christ’s followers an opportunity to address the world on its own terms and say, “You know that God that remains unnamed in this film? Well, I do know his name. It’s Jesus, and I’d like to tell you about him.”
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS FROM THE EDITOR: There are various issues in this film that will concern those who love and worship the God of the Bible. “God” is used as a straight-man of sorts in this situation comedy, and is portrayed in flesh (shown as a janitor, an electrician, and an executive). Although, thankfully, the actor delivers a mostly dignified and respectful performance, this portrayal of our holy, all-powerful, all-knowing Creator is by nature inherently irreverent and shallow. We wish that all filmmakers would understand that depicting God and putting words in His mouth is treading on very dangerous ground and is offensive.
Although, this film certainly shares some good insights, and the overall message is better than with most current movies, viewers can potentially come away with a wrong perception of God. This is not the God of the Bible; the character merely shares some similarities. Predictably, with a Hollywood “God,” sin is not an issue. He makes no moral judgments. People are not held accountable. Nor is this the God who sent His son to pay the ultimate penalty on our behalf to save us from the destiny we deserve. As another critic observed, “The only use of Jesus’ name here is as a profanity.” The nature of this god is designed with the intention of being comfortably acceptable to all people.
Of concern to families may be the fairly vulgar and sexual language and references peppered throughout some sections (about average for films these days), including: The name “God” is used in exclamations several times, “Jesus” (once or twice), “Holy Hell,” a few uses of the s-word, a—hole, and cr*p, pr*ck, and one use of a f-word (as mentioned above). The later is also represented repeatedly in one comic scene with Bruce’s middle finger. Bruce uses his “divine” powers from another room to pleasure his girlfriend into obvious sexual ecstasy. Bruce passionately kisses a co-worker in a bedroom. A song called “Bruce So Horny” is briefly mentioned in a TV commercial. A monkey comically pops out of (and then into) a mugger’s anus (not graphic).
See our EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with Director Tom Shadyac—Director of “Bruce Almighty” (2003), Dragonfly (2002), Happy Gilmore (2000), Patch Adams (1998), Liar Liar (1997), “The Nutty Professor” (1996), and “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” (1994). Year of Release—2003
See review page on the sequel to this movie: “Evan Almighty”